Cost of living: Morecambe pub offers free food in bid to bring in more customers

A Morecambe pub is offering free food to encourage more customers as the cost of living continues to bite.
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Gemma Gardner, who runs The York Hotel with husband Gareth, said they are facing an "incredibly scary" time.

The couple took over the Lancaster Road pub in July. Just a month later fire broke out at the premises, and they had to close until September.

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Mum-of-four Gemma now says the only reason they are able to keep going is because their pub company is helping them out.

The York Hotel in Morecambe.The York Hotel in Morecambe.
The York Hotel in Morecambe.

The news comes as industry bosses warn many pubs and breweries across the UK could be forced to shut for good.

A new report by Frontier Economics, produced for the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), shows that energy bills returning to their regular rate after March would put pubs and brewers at a loss of 20% on average.

Businesses have benefited from an energy bill relief scheme but the scheme finishes at the end of March.

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The report showed energy costs are the biggest threat to their viability and “would be even more lethal” when the relief scheme ends.

And it warns that pubs and breweries will face major financial losses and many will be forced to close if the scheme is not extended.

Gemma said she "dreads to think" how bad things will be next year.

“Not only have our energy bills extortionate, but our supplier has also added on extra unexpected charges outside of our standard rates as well, from a £2,000 installation fee to doubling our daily hire charge unexpectedly," she said.

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“We have tried to switch suppliers but been rejected, and the only reason we’re able to keep going is because our pub company is helping us through.

"We’re struggling with our bills but so are our customers as well and so we’re being squeezed at both ends. We’ve even started offering free food to encourage customers to come in and buy drinks.

"Not knowing what we’ll be charged month on month is incredibly scary, this isn’t only our business but our home as well but we’re at the mercy of our energy suppliers.

"If it’s this bad now I dread to think what it will be like when the energy relief scheme ends come April.”

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Tim Black, associate director in Frontier Economics’ retail and consumer team, said: "Recent economic shocks of Covid, Brexit and the war in Ukraine have put sustained pressure on businesses.

"Our analysis shows the pub & brewery sector is facing a combination of surging costs – primarily energy, but also raw materials and wages – and falling demand, as consumers reduce their spending in the face of severe cost of living pressures.

"While there are different impacts across businesses and uncertainty on the outlook, the underlying economics of the sector makes absorbing these shocks incredibly difficult – and some firms will struggle to survive.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “We are urging the Government to seriously consider the impact rocketing energy costs will have not just on the businesses that have to pay them, but the communities they are embedded in and serve.

"These figures paint a stark, very grim picture of what is to come if our sector does not make the cut for extra support.”